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Mushroom Mania

Mushroom Mania

By Rita Demontis, QMI Agency
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July 7, 2010

In everything from breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks -- mushrooms make for marvelous mouthfuls of flavour.

The versatility of what you can create with this humble fungi is endless, and you're only as limited as your imagination to what you can blend, bake, chop, saute and serve. On their own or paired with ingredients, you can't go wrong. Plus -- mushrooms are low in everything including calories, carbs, cholesterol, sodium and fat. Yet they're big on flavour and essential nutrients and are a good source of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, with no additives.

And there's something quite other-worldly about them. Mushrooms were prized in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, and "growing so close to or under the earth" they carried "an aura of another world," wrote Jack Czarnecki in his excellent "A Cook's Book of Mushrooms."

According to Mushrooms Canada, there are well over 100 mushroom farms across Canada, with half the production in Ontario, and the rest divided up among British Columbia, the Prairies, Quebec and the Maritimes. There are over 200 million pounds (91,000 tonnes) of mushrooms grown in Canada annually, most sold fresh, while some are canned. And - per capita - consumption of fresh mushrooms in Canada is about 3.5 lb. (1.6 kg.).

Plus mushrooms have that secret ingredient known as ..... umami, or the elusive fifth taste. Gourmands say umami defies description, but do say is caused the interaction of glutamates, a naturally occurring amino acid, with receptors on the tongue, and literally floods your mouth with flavour! Umami is known to enhance foods it's combined with, adding a richer, more intense flavour dimension to the dish.

It sounds like magic. And it's in mushrooms. Something to chew on when you look over the following delicious recipes courtesy of mushrooms.ca.

Things to keep in mind when buying mushrooms

When shopping for mushrooms, be adventurous and work with the variety available at your supermarket or grocery store. Keep in mind the following:

- Mushrooms are delicate. Take extra care to prevent bruising, preserve high quality and maintain great taste.

- Fresh mushrooms are firm to the touch, have uniform colour and have a slightly shiny surface.

-When mushrooms are purchased loose, they should be stored in a brown paper bag as they will breathe better and stay firm longer.

- Do not be alarmed by particles of peat moss that may be on some of the mushrooms, they are completely harmless and may be brushed off prior to use.

-Always keep your mushrooms in the refrigerator between the temperatures of 32°F and 36°F (0°C to 2°C).

-Packaged mushrooms keep well in the refrigerator, but once opened they should be stored in a brown paper bag.

- Mushrooms are best when they are used within a few days of purchase, but can be kept up to one week.

- Prior to use, wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth or rinse in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Do not wash mushrooms until you are ready to use them, as they may discolour.

-Courtesy of www.mushrooms.ca.

Here's a selection of recipes courtesy mushrooms.ca.

SIMPLE SAUTEED MUSHROOMS

Not only is this sautéed mushroom recipe easy, it adds tons of flavour to any meal. Serve on top of chicken, beef or pork, add to pasta dishes, soups or salads, or simply serve it as a side.

1 Tbsp. (15ml) olive oil, vegetable oil or butter
1/2 lb. (250g) sliced fresh mushrooms
1 tsp. (5ml) dried herbs (Italian, basil, rosemary, tarragon or thyme)
Pinch of salt (optional)

Heat oil or butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté sliced mushrooms for 3-4 minutes or until starting to brown. Add dried herbs and a pinch of salt, sauté for 1-2 minutes.

TIP: It's important to use a large pan so mushrooms are in a single layer and will brown rather than steam and release all their juices.

VARIATIONS: Substitute fresh herbs using 2 Tbsp. (30ml) minced parsley or 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) minced fresh herbs and 1 minced clove garlic. Seasoning salt or salt free seasonings may be added to taste.

NOTE: For 1 lb (500 g) mushrooms: use a larger pan, double ingredients and increase time to 5-7 minutes.

HERB CRUSTED MUSHROOMS

Serve larger mushroom slices as a vegetable accompaniment or smaller ones for hors d'oeuvres. Vary the herbs and type of bread for different flavours.

3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. (10ml) garlic powder
3/4 tsp. (3ml) Each salt and pepper
3 cups (750ml) fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup (50ml) chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. (30ml) chopped chives
1½  lb. (750g) fresh mushrooms (white, crimini or portabella) sliced ½"/1 cm thick OR whole mushroom caps
4 cups (1L) canola or light olive oil (for deep frying)
Lemon wedges or dipping sauces*

In a shallow bowl or pie plate whisk eggs, garlic powder, salt and pepper with 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) water. Place breadcrumbs, parsley and chives in food processor and process until finely chopped; place 1 1/2-inch (3.5 cm) oil in a heavy wide saucepan to 350F (180C). Using a fork or tongs dip a few mushroom slices or caps at a time into egg mixture, allowing excess to drip off and then transfer to bread crumbs, pressing into crumbs to adhere (note coating will be uneven.). Transfer to a tray or baking sheet.

Fry mushrooms in hot oil in single layers, turning once for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towel lined tray or baking sheet. Return oil to 350F (180C) and repeat batches. Keep each batch warm uncovered in 350F (180C) oven while cooking the remainder.  Serve with wedges of lemon to squeeze on top or dip into prepared sauces.

Makes 6 servings

DIPPING SAUCE SUGGESTIONS: Honey Dijon mustard, honey dill dipping sauce, no-fat herb, blue cheese or roasted red pepper dressing.

VARIATIONS: Use whole wheat, multigrain, herb or rye bread for different flavours.

SEAFOOD STUFFED PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS

Serve with a green salad for a wonderful light lunch menu, or use smaller mushrooms as a starter for a dinner party.

Aioli Sauce:

1/4 cup (50ml) low-fat mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. (15ml) Each lemon juice and water
1 clove garlic, minced
Dash hot pepper sauce (optional)

Stuffed Portabellas:

1 pkg. (227 g) imitation lobster, crab or cooked shrimp
1 egg
1 Tbsp. (15ml) low-fat mayonnaise or sour cream
1/2 tsp. (2ml) Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. (30ml) shallot or green onion, diced
2 Tbsp. (30ml) fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup (50ml) seasoned bread crumbs 
Hot pepper sauce too taste
2 fresh (5-inch/12cm) Portabella Mushrooms
2 Tbsp. (30ml) olive oil
2 Tbsp. (30ml) grated Parmesan cheese

In small bowl whisk ingredients mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic and hot pepper sauce for sauce; cover and refrigerate to blend flavours.

Finely chop seafood and in a small bowl mix with egg, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, shallot, parsley, and bread crumbs. Remove stems from mushrooms and with a spoon scrape offbrown gills; brush inside and outside of mushroom caps with oil. Place cap side down in shallow baking pan and pack mixture into caps, mounding as necessary; sprinkle with cheese. Bake in 400F (200C) oven for 15 --20 minutes or until heated through out. Serve mushrooms drizzled with aioli sauce.

Makes 2 Servings

TIP: Chop seafood and shallots in food processor to save time.

VARIATIONS: Substitute fresh coriander for parsley and chipotle sauce for hot pepper sauce.

Omit egg and use 2 Tbsp. (30ml) mayonnaise and add ½ cup (125 ml) shredded Swiss cheese.

EASY MUSHROOM RAVIOLI WITH FOUR CHEESE SAUCE

A quick filling that bursts with flavour is enclosed in prepared won ton skins instead off pasta making this a lighter version of ravioli. For further convenience make and freeze them ahead of time and purchase a prepared sauce.

Ravioli:

3 Tbsp. (45ml) butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 lb. (500g) fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. (30ml) lite soya or tamari sauce
¼ tsp. (1ml) ground black pepper
½ tsp. (2ml) dried thyme
1 pkg. (400g/13.5) won ton wrappers

Sauce:

1 ½ tbsp (22ml) Each butter and flour
1 3/4 cups (425ml) 2% milk
1 cup (250ml) shredded Italian 4 cheese blend
1/4 tsp (1ml) Each salt and pepper
¼ tsp. (1ml) nutmeg (optional)

Garnishes: diced red pepper, chopped chives or sliced green onion tops or minced parsley (optional).

Ravioli: In large skillet melt butter over medium heat; sauté onion for 1-2 minutes just to soften. Add mushrooms sauté 4-5 minutes or until liquid is released; reduce heat to low and add garlic, soya sauce, pepper and thyme. Continue to cook, stirring often until a thick paste is formed, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly.

To assemble ravioli work in batches, place a few won ton skins on work surface (keeping other ones covered so as not to dry out); place a heaping tablespoon of filling in centre of each. Brush water around outside edges of each wrapper; top with a second wrapper. Press out air and edges to seal. Place on a damp towel-lined baking sheet and cover with damp towel while making remaining ravioli. Refrigerate or freeze as directed below until cooking time.

Sauce: In medium saucepan melt butter; stir in flour and cook stirring constantly 1-2 minutes or until bubbling. Whisk in milk and bring to boil, whisking constantly until thickened; lower heat and stir in cheese, cook for 3-5 minutes stirring occasionally. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Keep warm on low heat until ready to serve or reheat in microwave on Medium power.

In large wide saucepan or deep skillet of gently boiling water cook a few ravioli in batches (in single layers), about 4 minutes or until tender but firm. (Do not let water boil vigorously once ravioli have been added.) Remove with slotted spoon to shallow baking pans, in single layers; add about 1/2 inch cooking water to keep warm, in oven while cooking remaining ravioli. Transfer with slotted spoon, draining off excess water to warm serving plates. Spoon sauce evenly over ravioli, garnish as desired.

Makes 4 servings

VARIATIONS:

- Add 2-4 Tbsp. (30-60ml) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese with other cheese to sauce.

- Drizzle sauce with truffle oil or substitute ¼ cup (50 ml) sherry for ¼ cup (50 ml) milk in sauce.

 

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